Cosmica Records, México
by Andrew Casillas
Carla Morrison has something to say. And when she does, time usually stands still. Atmospheric pressure quells, and the resulting space makes nary a sound, give or take the flicker of an insect. It’s a very brief period, less than a measure of a second. But when Ms. Morrison finally utters a word, the retroactive effect reverberates through the ensuing three and a half minutes of aural beauty.
The preceding paragraph was an exercise in time-honored critical hyperbole. But to a devoted sect of the listening public, Carla Morrison really does change the world every time she utters a word. This group, largely but not exclusive female, reacts to her depiction of the world with the allegiance of a Community tumblr admin. And with good cause—Morrison’s music speaks to the romantic optimist we’d all like to be, yet grounds itself in the stark realism that similar pop stars deliberately avoid. Her characters have loved and been burned by love. They’ve imbibed to celebrate, and drunk themselves to shame. They want to share everything inside with the world, but the world isn’t always ready or wanting. And Morrison dresses it up in bright, deep colors—always centered by her voice. Her sweet, gorgeous, every(wo)man voice.
After years of struggling to make a place in the Latin music scene, she hit pay dirt with her debut album, Mientras Tú Dormías…, a pitch-perfect record for the transformative soul. Tearing the shackles of precociousness frequently levied against female indie pop singers, Morrison showed that shiny pocket symphonies could co-exist with straightforward, down-to-earth, ideas reserved for more spiritual or folk works.
This grand sense of pitch-perfect newness doomed her new album, Dejénme Llorar, from the start. But, even then, the end result is disappointingly straightforward. As a whole, the album frequently purrs when it should roar and plods along without payoff far too often. Not to say it’s boring, which would imply that Morrison sought to rapture her attention. This is obviously a more brooding and meditative work, one that rewards its most attentive listeners. It’s akin to following up Pet Sounds with Blue. Just compare the deliberate upright bass slapping that opens Dejénme Llorar with the instant drumming of “Compartir.” Not the natural move, but one that deserves praise for bold thinking. And, indeed, Morrison’s voice remains in top form, emoting without resorting to empty histrionics. But there’s the still the matter of overall execution; the key word being “overall.”
For one, the thematic unity of the songs is nearly non-existent. For an album titled Dejénme Llorar, there are very few tearful ballads or songs about flamed-out love. If that’s reading too far into the title, then where’s the connection? Mientras Tú Dormías… was a rumination on love across the entire spectrum: highs, lows, long-term, fleeting, etc. What connects the songs on Dejénme Llorar appears to be that these are Carla Morrison’s latest songs, packaged together on one LP. Which is fine. But, in that case, we need to address how there is a lot of filler on this record.
There are certainly a handful of songs that will sound great on a Greatest Hits package. The jazz-influenced “Me Encanta” and its deceptively buoyant percussion; the jaunty, gorgeously melodic “No Quise Mirar;” the '50s slow dance/burner “Eres Tú;” the precision swing of “Hasta la Piel;” and “Tu Orgullo,” which is the closest this album gets to Mientras in spirit and sound. All of those are very good, if not great, songs. But there are still nine songs remaining, ten if you count the hidden track. These remaining songs either fail to engage the listener or indulge in MOR cadence. If this weren’t following up such a grand, unique debut, then this sort of thing would be forgiven, we’d post our three-star review and move on. But with Carla Morrison…
Really, that’s the issue. This is Carla Morrison’s second album. And it’s not as good as her first one. Where the debut was short, sweet, and full-bodied (seriously, try to find a song you could cut without compromising the whole thing), this album is full of clutter. Very pleasant clutter, but even a koi pond can get crowded. Maybe we’ll realize in a few years that Dejénme Llorar was the set-up for a truly groundbreaking smash. No one denies Carla Morrison’s talent and potential, and she’s still one of the most dynamic young talents in pop music. But there’s only so much time when the world stops to hear you speak.